Interesting. I've read plenty of sketchy papers, but didn't make it far enough that I was ever asked to peer-review. Without attempting to put any magnitude it, I'd agree that omission with just enough sloppiness for plausible deniability is a big problem. For me the fear of even approaching any sort of gray area was much stronger than the necessity to publish, and I like to imagine most people feel the same way.
On your main point, another commenter said, "Being a good researcher is about doing something no one else has done, no matter how small, and being rigorous about reporting the results," and I was inclined to agree, but this seems to be in conflict with your opinion that, "drive and hard work is mistaken for aptitude to do science." Maybe the distinction lies in the difference between good science and great science. I see good scientists around me succeeding because they work incredibly hard, many of them sacrificing health and relationships to get there. I've only known a few great scientists, and they worked very hard but also had great insight and, interestingly enough, led incredibly well-rounded lives. An accomplished pianist, a runner and devoted husband, etc. All delightful people I feel privileged to have met. I tried very hard to be the second type, and to make a long story short, I'm no longer a scientist at all. It's looking like web development with an option to pull a Chris McCandless and disappear entirely. I think I had a lot to offer and wish things had worked out differently. Always nice to know someone else is at least as bitter as I am though! Good luck to you!
Being a good researcher is about doing something no one else has done, no matter how small, and being rigorous about reporting the results.
I have also observed a massive preference of quantity over quality.
I laugh, but it pretty much matches my experience.
I think there's some irony there, but he's not too far off. Appears there's a place for physics/engineers in the financial sector. Not sure how big the market is, but the student whose fluid dynamics code we used went to work on Wall Street. Your mileage may vary, but it also looks to me like there are more satisfying lives than the life of an academic.
Crap. Here we go...
So I spent the last five years in two different grad programs and will soon be leaving with... an M.S... They were decent/very good programs and I was plenty smart, but spent most of ages 22-27 almost completely miserable for it. In short, I went because I was smart, capable, and loved the material, and I payed a pretty big price for it. It's a great thing if you can find a field that piques your curiosity like that, but I'd call it a necessary rather than sufficient condition for success in grad school. I like to get lost in equations and algorithms, and it just didn't dawn on me that I'd have to make such a desperate attempt to flaunt it and establish a name for myself. I don't have a big enough ego to think that the world revolves around my research topic much less me, and as silly as it sounds, I found myself sitting through presentations much more interested in the personality of the presenter than the content. Grown men (yes, usually men) spending their whole lives analyzing a particular wave mode? Are they passionate about it because it's interesting or because they're desperately clinging to something they can get funding for? It's a mind trip if you really sit there and analyze it. And the isolation. Hell. When I was most productive, it wasn't at all unusual for me to go three or four days without speaking to anyone. Probably wouldn't be so bad if you're of the female type. In the end, I decided that although nothing would technically prevent me from being a scientist and a good person, as stressed out, overworked, and miserable as I already was, and with no end in sight, the risk was just too great.
Sorry for the pessimism. I'll cut myself off there and refer you to a few sources I've found helpful:
Former classics professor, now web developer/writer. Pretty awesome person. No longer an academic. You read that correctly. Not an academic. Awesome person. They're not incompatible, despite what some professors would like you to believe.
Demetri Martin On Puzzles And 'Important Things'
Because who doesn't love Demetri Martin? He made it most of the way through law school before dropping out and doing something that made him happy. I like his explanation around 10 minutes in.
Amazon.com: Winning the Games Scientists Play
I can't recommend this book enough. It's basically a book about how to advance your scientific career in the most efficient way possible. I picked it up randomly and got through half of it standing in the library stacks before I found myself too nauseous to continue. He starts off insisting he's only the messenger, but it's really pretty sickening that someone would attempt to codify and advocate everything that makes academia such a miserable place. Thing is, it's pretty much true. I love where he says that fake scientists with outside hobbies or interests that occupy too much of their minds should be identified and exposed with great pleasure. Wow.
Richard Hamming: You and Your Research
Yes, Richard Hamming of the eponymous window function! Advice on how to be a good researcher. "I don't like to say it in front of my wife, but I did sort of neglect her sometimes; I needed to study. You have to neglect things if you intend to get what you want done. There's no question about this."
Anyway, after all this, I figure someone who's not deterred in the least might actually be a good fit for academia. You really have to want it. It's all about focus and persistence. Some people seem happy. Putting food on the table is easy no matter what you do.
No problem is so large it can't be fit in somewhere.